The City of Newark has been celebrating it’s birthday, September 22, 1955 – annually since incorporation.
A parade was at the heart of it – and old-timers remember when the City’s first Mayor, George Silliman’s car broke down and he walked the parade route down Thornton Avenue.
Members of the Newark Chamber of Commerce – who later turned the festivities over to the Junior Chamber of Commerce, planned the early years of what is now called Newark Days. In the 60’s – a group called “Newark Birthday Celebration” was formed… The weekend events were held on the Newark Pavilion grounds, in the Newark High School auditorium and of course, the Thornton Avenue parade.
The “Newark Birthday Celebration” dissolved at the end of the 60’s and for several years – the only celebration commemorating the City’s birthday was put on in Newark Community Park by the Newark Recreation Department – a one-day event with games and a birthday cake.
In 1972 Shirley Sisk ran for City Council and in walking door-to-door during the campaign, the predominant question was – “when is the Newark birthday celebration coming back?”. Shirley and her husband Frank had volunteered and worked with the old “Newark Birthday Celebration”, so in the Summer of 1972 a meeting was called to see if there were enough volunteers to plan an event for that September. Interest was high and “Newark Days Celebration” was formed.
The Newark Rotary offered to bring in a carnival and the committee put together food booths and games at the Pavilion. The weekend was a huge success. The next step was to form a nonprofit corporation. The original signers were: William & Bonnie Chivers, Robert Jaeger (Executive Director of the Newark Chamber of Commerce), Barbara Lane, Marilyn Rogers, Frank & Shirley Sisk and John Fulgaro.
From that small step Newark Days has grown from a weekend event to 4 days centered in the Newark Community Park & Community Center as well as the adjacent MacGregor School Grounds. The parade now goes down Newark Blvd, and ends on Cedar Blvd, a much longer walk if a car breaks down...
Today a core volunteer committee of 30 work year-round planning a multitude of activities: the big Saturday parade, the Newark Mile race, multi-stages of entertainment, arts & crafts booths, food and game booths, carnival, special theme areas, contests, children’s activities. These events and more are enjoyed by over 100,000 people every year and during the 4 days – over 200 volunteers come together to make this a truly wonderful celebration of the City’s birthday.